Updated: Oct 6, 2020
I’m sure by now you’ve heard the new memes and trends floating on social media that categorize what people consider obnoxious and entitled behavior by a white woman as a “Karen.”
According to Slang by Dictionary.com, Karen is a mocking slang term for an entitled, obnoxious, middle-aged white woman. Especially as featured in memes, Karen is generally stereotyped as having a blonde bob haircut, asking to speak to retail and restaurant managers to voice complaints or make demands, and being a nagging, often divorced mother from Generation X. Like Suzy Weiss wrote in her New York Times article, What does it mean to be a ‘Karen’ or a ‘Chad’? Viral memes explained, “Are you the type of gal who demands to speak to the manager when you feel you’ve been wronged? You just might be a ‘Karen.”
The hashtag, #KarenStrikesAgain, began circulating on social media after a white woman, Amy Cooper, called the police on a Black man, Christian Cooper, who was bird watching in Central Park when he asked her to put her dog on a leash, as enforced by the park rules. The two do not have any relation to each other.
Christian Cooper recorded part of the encounter and posted it to Facebook shortly after, where it was shared thousands of times and has become a trending topic on Twitter.
“I’m taking a picture and calling the cops,” Amy Cooper can be heard saying in the video. “I’m going to tell them there’s an African American man threatening my life.”
According to NYPD, no arrests have been made as neither Amy Cooper nor Christian Cooper were at the scene when officers responded.
Amy Cooper has since made a public apology in a statement to CNN.
“I’m not a racist. I did not mean to harm that man in any way,” she said, adding that she also didn’t mean any harm to the African American community.
When CNN asked Christian Cooper if he’d accept Amy Cooper’s apology, he responded, “if it’s genuine and if she plans on keeping her dog on a leash in the Ramble going forward, then we have no issues with each other.”
This particular Karen incident comes after several other incidents that were trending on social media involving a Karen. A video emerged on Mother’s Day, May 13, of a fight that broke out at a Red Lobster in Pennsylvania after a white woman grew tired of waiting three hours for her food. In the video, the woman can be seen fighting with restaurant staff as they forcefully shove her out of the restaurant and she fights back and screams, “Give me my motherf*cking money back.” The video went viral on social media and the woman in the video was deemed “Red Lobster Karen.”
Another, more recent Karen incident went viral when a video emerged of a white female police officer describing her encounter with a Karen.
“Just had my first Karen encounter, lady called the cops because some kids were playing in a bouncy house and they were screaming too loud,” she can be heard saying in the video. “Okay Karen, go back in your house and stop calling the cops for stupid crap like that. Let the kids play. They’re kids.”
Critics took to social media to express their discomfort with the Karen incident involving Amy Cooper.
“Is it bad that we as people of color have to pray every day that we make it home safely without a confrontation or negative interaction with a Karen, Tom, Dick, or Dave? #KarenStrikesAgain,” one user wrote.
“Amy Cooper is white privilege, personified. #KarenStrikesAgain I am sick of being embarrassed to be white,” another user wrote.
A third user tweeted, “The Karens of the world who continue to put Black people in jeopardy with their lies. This one being recorded…imagine how many others are doing the same off camera. Hopefully #AmyCooper will be arrested for filing a false report. #KarenStrikesAgain.”